The Rapidian

Local artist feature from UICA: Eana Agopian

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Meet Eana Agopian, a recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. Her work is now on display at UICA through August 6, 2017.
Artist, Eana Agopian

Artist, Eana Agopian /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Underwriting support from:
Collage from 2012 of artist,

Collage from 2012 of artist, /Courtesy of the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts

Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts invites you to learn more about West Michigan's creative workforce, neighboring cultural organizations, and about ways to engage with Grand Rapids' art-scene with interviews and guest features highlighting our local and regional community members. Visit for monthly interviews.

Eana Agopian, a recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, is currently exhibiting her work at UICA. Agopian is UICA's 2016 Fresh Pick award winner. The designation is given annually to a member of KCAD’s graduating class who shows a high level of talent and potential. We interviewed the artist to learn more about her work, inspiration, and the West Michigan art scene.

Give us a short bio.

I’m from Kalamazoo. Just kidding, I was born in Tennessee on the largest commune in the U.S., but I was raised in Kalamazoo. I studied fine art photography at Western Michigan University, and then I worked on a bunch of fun art collaborations in the area, and traveled as much as I could. In 2013 I moved to Grand Rapids to study printmaking in Kendall’s MFA program. I have an amazing cat named Frida who likes to watch me make art. 

How would you describe your work?

Ephemeral celestial botanical psychedelic collage.

Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking?

Constantly admiring the beauty of the world as if looking through the eyes of a child. I am in awe of every tiny thing I see. I’m sure folks find it charming and annoying in equal measure to walk down the street with me. I stop a lot and comment on birds and bugs and leaves like an excited four year old. I’ve also read two different Frida Kahlo biographies, and visited her home and studio, her work is so raw and honest – a big influence for me.

Do you have a piece of work that stands out in your mind as something you are exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

In 2012 I made a collage of two mirrored figures of myself, - one large, and the other small, with their hands clasped around a globe, as if they were from the past and future, and I, as the maker, was in the present. Creating that piece made me decide to apply to graduate school. I realized I still had so much more to learn.

What new projects do you have on the horizon?

I recently applied to ArtPrize for the first time, hoping to make a large-scale collage using a botched origami flower I made from a piece of black paper. It’s sitting in a trash bag right now waiting for me. It's an idea I’ve had for a few years now, and I’m excited to start work on it. I’m also trying to embrace the sales-end of things, and I am working on selling more prints and things online – something I’ve resisted for many years, but now it’s time.

What do you want others outside of the creative workforce to understand about careers within the arts?

Understand that artists are powerful beings, capable of imaging and creating a better world. If you hire us we will bring our magic to your endeavors and we will all succeed. I honestly don’t really think of myself as a member of the creative workforce, I have never profited from my artwork, and I can’t seem to find any jobs where being an artist even matters. However, I do feel creative types bring a lot to the table in any field, we have unique ways of seeing the world, like the mutants from X-men, or wizards like Harry Potter.

How can communities, specifically Grand Rapids, better support the creative workforce?

Hire us! Buy art! Don’t associate the word “artist” with “failure,” in fact – it’s likely we’re a step ahead of the game since we’re highly ambitious, innovative, and rarely compromise our principles, which seems like good qualities to have in an employee. Again – don’t be afraid of the weirdness – buy the weird art! Embrace what makes you unique and interesting. I find this to be a very segregated, homogenous city, which I think breeds stagnation and a very insular feeling. As an outsider from a much more diverse, inclusive, and creative town, people were shocked that I would move to Grand Rapids to pursue art. In many ways they were right-on. I would love to change that, but I think people in power here either choose to ignore that whole notion, or fear it. Either way, more awareness and inclusion of “other-ness” would do this town a world of good in all sectors.

What are you passionate about besides your work?

Food. The alchemy of food and art are closely related in my mind. I love the freedom it allows for experimentation, and eating it keeps you alive! What could be better? Travel excites me, I love exploring new places and people watching.

What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?

Go ahead and make your weird art - don’t be scared of it or what other people will think. Figure out the weirdest, most unique thing about yourself put that into your work, it’s honest and fearless, and that is powerful. Besides, nobody wants to look at your boring art. 

Looking for more?

Find more of Eana Agopian's artwork here.
Fresh Pick: Eana Agopian is on view Apr 8 – Aug 6, 2017 at UICA.

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